Triple homicide in Thermal; a fourth victim is hospitalized in critical condition
The Desert Sun – Palm Springs, Calif.
The Desert Sun
Three men are found dead and a fourth is hospitalized in critical condition after Riverside County sheriff’s deputies responded this morning to a report of a shooting in a field near Thermal, a sheriff’s spokesman said.
No arrests have been made and authorities are searching for witnesses who may have information on the shooter or shooters.
Shortly before 8 a.m., authorities received a 911 call from a nearby worker.
Responding deputies went to a field in the area of Avenue 61 and Van Buren Street, according to Deputy Angel Ramos, a sheriff’s spokesman.
Upon arrival, deputies were told by the surviving victim that there were three others in the field who had been shot.
“The (man) … indicated that three of his relatives had possibly also been shot and were inside the field,” Ramos said. “They located three males, three dead bodies in the field.”
The man who survived the shooting was in critical condition at a hospital this afternoon, sheriff’s Sgt. Joe Borja said.
Despite the surviving victim’s statements, investigators aren’t sure if the four men are related, but investigators believe they were shot during the same incident.
Dispatchers fielded a report just minutes after the initial 911 call that the injured man feared his father and brother had been fatally shot as they worked in a palm tree grove.
Throughout the morning deputies searched the area for the bodies, which were eventually found at about 12:45 p.m., Ramos said. The bodies were found in a field between avenues 61 and 62 and Van Buren and Harrison streets, Borja said.
The daylong shooting investigation was expected to continue into the night.
The search for the killer or killers, as well as witnesses, has taken deputies into palm tree groves, open fields and a nearby mobile home park.
A California Highway Patrol airplane and a sheriff’s department helicopter also circled overhead during the search.
Officials could not immediately confirm reports that a marijuana grove was found during the deputies’ search and could be related to the investigation.
The spot where deputies were originally called is in the unincorporated community of Vista Santa Rosa, about 2 miles east of La Quinta’s city limits and 2 miles southwest of Jacqueline Cochran Regional Airport in Thermal.
Josiah Bower, who said he works for a date grower in the area added that he stopped by the scene twice out of curiosity.
“There’s always gunshots out here,” he said. “I don’t know if they’re shooting people, but there’s always shots.”
Two men who stopped by the search area said they carry guns for protection when they’re in the community.
A man who lives at a nearby migrant worker mobile home park said he was outside watering plants this morning when he heard two or three bangs. The man, who declined to give his name, said he thought it was a car backfiring.
The man said it wasn’t long after he heard the bangs that deputies began knocking on doors of the the approximately 10 homes in the park.
He said they told residents they were looking for a gunman on the loose.
By this afternoon only Avenue 62 remained closed between Van Buren and Harrison.
The Desert Sun has reporters and photographers at the scene, so check back to mydesert.com for more on this developing story.